On Tuesday morning, 21 March 2017, I stopped at a large marsh along side Albers Avenue north of Highway 19 here in Rice County, Minnesota. When I heard the unmistakable bugling of distant Sandhill Cranes, I jumped out of my car. Two cranes circled high over the wetland.
The cranes were probably flying over and defending breeding territory. During the decade since we retired to Northfield, cranes have become increasingly common local breeders. Rice County is near the southern limit of their Minnesota range. Although once common, by the mid-1940s the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources estimated only about 25 pairs nested in the state. Since then breeding cranes have made a steady, statewide recovery.